Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family by Fr Michael

+Love, a Relationship That Grows                                   Holy Family 2017

At an address to engaged couples by Pope Francis there were a Nicolas and Marie Alexia there from Gibraltar, the southern tip of Spain, who asked him: “Your holiness, many today think that life-long fidelity is too challenging; many feel that the struggle to live together may be beautiful, enchanting, but it is difficult, even impossible. We ask you for a word to enlighten us on this.”

The Holy Father responded: Today everything changes so quickly, nothing lasts long. And this mentality leads many who are preparing for marriage to say: “We are together as long as the love lasts,” and then? All the best and see you later… and so ends the marriage. But what do we mean by “love”? Is it only a feeling, a psychophysical state? Certainly, if that is it, then we cannot build on anything solid. But if, instead, love is a relationship, then it is a reality that grows.

Whether it is in family or community, it is a sense of growing relationships that gives it permanence, gives it a stability that brings about growth and maturity. And let me suggest that this is right at the heart of our gospel today when Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and said to Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted—and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” As was to take place when Jesus began his public life, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, immediately there were those who could accept his message and those who were threatened by it, knowing that if this was the long awaited Messiah, then their own expectations, their own lives had to change, take a whole new turn.

Jesus is the authentic sign of God’s great love for us and of what makes for a real, an abiding love. God’s love for us calls each one of us into a lasting relationship, into a faith or trust that transforms our lives so that both family and community life become a place where all its members may continually grow as living members of Christ’s very own body. And isn’t this what we heard about in the first two readings this morning?

When Abram had no child in marriage with Sarah so that he worried about the future of his family, God led him out under the open sky at night and tells him to count the stars, if he can for just so shall his descendants be. Abram had faith in God and it was “accredited to him as an act of righteousness.” With God’s intervention everything changes in their lives and a whole new future opens up for them.

So often it happens in each one of our lives, whether as married couples, members of a monastic community or living the single life, that we are brought to the point where our human means or psychophysical state proves inadequate but this is precisely where God’s divine hand reveals itself. Our human love becomes inadequate to sustain us and this is the time when Divine grace manifests itself, opening up new horizons, even unto eternal life.

As the Letter to the Hebrews reminded us, “there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands of the seashore.” All this was but a foreshadowing of what takes place on this Altar. For here we celebrate Christ’s abiding love for us, love that brought him to where all was apparently lost as he gave up his life for the salvation of the world. Through his total surrender, he became the Savior of the world, revealing a love that never ends, making each one of us, our families, our communities, sharers of God’s very own Life.

Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40